The Unexpected: Part 2

Somewhere around 20 weeks I wrote Part 1 with the notion that there would surely be enough material to inspire a sequel…and then forgot all about it. I’m not sure if much has truly surprised me since then – but that’s more to do with just getting used to an endless parade of weirdness than with things being “normal” per se. So at (the end?) 40 weeks, here we go:

Bleeding gums – diving right in since, as the journalistic maxim goes, “if it bleeds, it leads”. This really should have been included the first time around since it has been happening right from the start. In my experience, it doesn’t matter how dedicated your oral hygiene or historically flawless your dental track record, you will bleed every single time your teeth are grazed by brush, floss or stiff breeze. Pregnancy hormones do this, because they are multi-tasking life-ruiners. #science.

Things don’t necessarily get worse – This is a pretty good one. There were times where some shitty symptom or pain would surface and I would think (or be told) “that will only get worse”. But this hasn’t really been true at all. Things get different, perhaps even equally crappy or annoying, but not every little thing will necessarily get progressively worse. Lots of aches and pains come and go with no trace. If you have shooting pains in your hip one month – they may completely go away the next. Exhausted in the first trimester? That may never resurface again (it hasn’t for me). And on and on.

Leaking boobs – I guess technically I knew this happened, but I figured it would be much closer to baby time. But nope, you can start leaking sticky, clearish fluid (colostrum) at any point, although usually in your third trimester. I think I was around 30 weeks? If that. And for the record, your nipples do a lot of disturbing shit when you are pregnant. They will change shape, size and colour about 5 times and every time it is freaky and gross. Everyone assures me they go back to normal eventually.

Sleep (for better and worse) – I am an unnaturally sound sleeper, and always have been. Despite the dire warnings, I have continued to sleep like a baby all the way through. I may toss and turn and say, “ow, ow ow!”, waking Andrew up all night, but me? I’m still dead asleep and fine. So that’s been good – for me. For the past 4 weeks or so though, everything has been falling asleep really easily. I always wake up with at least a couple appendages down for the count, and if I stay in any position too long, pins and needles are par for the course. Thanks to nerve compression and cellular swelling (even though I’m not visibly swollen) I also have 3 fingers on my right hand that have been 20-75% numb for well over a week. It’s a sort of pregnancy carpal tunnel effect that is really annoying.

Heartburn sucks – before I was pregnant I didn’t even really understand what heartburn or acid reflux was. Now I know it’s Devils juice corroding away your soul. Heartburn can be so bad that labour starts to look good. I think this may actually be part of the divine strategy for propagating our species.

Still, how little happens at the doctor – I still haven’t had a single internal exam, or anything more involved than measuring my belly, listening to the heartbeat and taking my blood pressure. You see the doctor for maybe 5-10 minutes on every visit. Yet somehow your appointment will still take 30-60 minutes with waiting time.

People are nice.

This sentiment is so out of character for me that I’m sure those of you who know me well will think I’m being forced to pleasant-blog with a gun to my head. But since I’ve been pregnant, the generosity and helpfulness of friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances and even some strangers has truly been cold-dead-black-heart-melting.

To start with, I’ve been blown away from the very beginning by all the things people have been willing to honestly share with me about their own experiences. From worry, paranoia and anxiety to bleeding, hemorrhoids, heartburn and beyond – SO beyond. People – some I’m not even that close to – have come out of the woodwork to tell me things that have made me feel a little less nuts/gross/alone. Every pregnancy comes with its own set of disgusting/painful/worrisome afflictions…and it’s always nice to hear from someone who has been where you are – or worse. And, to hear about some of these things in advance so when/if they do happen, you know that it’s pretty normal. And if they don’t happen, you can thank your lucky stars that you managed to dodge at least a few bullets – like so far, hemorrhoids – knock on motherfuckin’ wood.

And then there’s all the stuff. Holy crap, do people love to give you stuff when you’re having a baby! We are so lucky in this department that we have barely had to buy a thing so far. The grandparents (both sets) sprung for the beautiful crib and slick stroller. Family and friends near and far are making us crib sheets, quilts, hats, blankies, car seat covers and curtains as I type. My mom ran all over town picking up necessities, cleaned, pressed and organized all the hand-me-down clothing by size, and assembled/stored the bassinet. We’ve gotten a great deal on a barely used car seat and extra base, more baby clothes than we know what to do with and a whack of assorted gadgets and gear. And these are just the hand-me-downs and loaners we’ve received ahead of time, pre- (totally unnecessary at this point) baby shower! A couple girls even passed along enough maternity wear that I didn’t need to buy any myself, including one coworker who totally saved my ass with summer stuff for my trip to Hawaii, seeing as I hadn’t exactly stocked up on maternity shorts and tank tops for my fall/winter pregnancy.

One of the very best gifts we’ve gotten so far was the gift of slave labour for a weekend from Brother (in-law) Greg. In the midst of my house-purging/nesting mental breakdown, he came to help us clean out a literal dump truck-load of garbage to make room for baby and then make an actual room for baby by setting up the dresser and crib. And the two of them did all of this under my watchful, demanding, whip-cracking supervision without a word of complaint. It was awesome, and it instantly took my stress level down about 500 notches.

Now as d-day draws closer, I’m especially thankful to have friends who have recently had babies  (like Becky and Kristyn, who have definitely gotten the brunt of this next paragraph) and are willing to answer my probing – verging on intrusive – questions about their labour and delivery. I know everybody is different, but I want to ask people I trust things like, are you glad you skipped the epidural? Did the morphine/gas help? What did you actually use that you packed in your hospital bag? Who did you have in the room with you? What do you think about a doula? Am I crazy to encapsulate my placenta? Did you bleed a lot? What was the worst part? etc. etc.

Hmm…so I wrote most of the above about a week ago, and now that d-day is REALLY drawing near, I find myself done with the questions. And largely tuning most of the unsolicited commentary out. It feels like now is the time to go with the flow and stop consciously thinking about things. I only have a limited number of time left to eat ice cream every single day while actually losing weight (this happens towards the end of pregnancy, apparently) and so this fantastical paradox must be appreciated without question.

Sweeping debate

At my last prenatal appointment I was offered a cervical sweep – also known as a membrane sweep, membrane stripping or, as some people at my clinic disturbingly refer to it, “rimming” – which…I…I just can’t understand why they would use a word with such a broadly used  (and giggle-able) sexual connotation. If you don’t know what I mean, Google “rimming” and see what comes up – I guarantee you, the first few pages of Google results have absolutely nothing to do with labour induction.

Moving along. With a sweep, your doctor puts their finger inside the cervix and sweeps it around to separate the membranes of the amniotic sac from your cervix and release hormones (prostaglandins), which may kick-start your labour by encouraging your cervix to “ripen” (honestly, these words, *shudder*). It can increase your chances of delivering within 48 hours by 24% and your chances of delivering within a week by 46%.

Since it was only my 38 week appointment, I was totally caught off guard by the offer, having thought it was a procedure you tried once you had reached your due date – at least. But no, at my clinic they routinely offer it starting at 38 weeks. There’s no harm in refusing, since they offer it at every appointment after that, and you can really ask for it any time you want it, up to the point of spontaneous labour or a medical induction.

So I refused. Partly because I wasn’t mentally prepared for an internal exam that day and partly because it just felt too early – I still had another 3 days at work for chrissakes. Plus, the procedure itself can be uncomfortable or even painful and can cause cramping, spotting and discomfort afterwards.

Arriving back at work, I promptly sent out a work-inappropriate email to a few moms in my office and fired off a couple texts to see if anybody could weigh in with their recommendations. Responses were mixed. A few had refused the sweep, for a few it had never come up (e.g. they went into labour early) a few had it and felt it was “no big deal” and a few said things like “fucking painful” and “worse than labour”. The best I can figure about the painfulness is, it depends on how ready your cervix is to begin with. If you’ve already started to soften and dilate a cm or two, it is bound to be less uncomfortable than if you’re still tightly closed up. I think it also depends how sick and tired you are of pregnancy. I may get to a point where I’ll do anything to get things moving, but I’m just not desperate yet.

A big pro is that it is a natural method of getting your labour moving, which can reduce your chances of going over your due date and requiring a chemical induction – which by all accounts is something you want to avoid if at all possible. So once you hit your due date, it’s definitely something to consider.

I’m currently 8 days away from my due date and 3 days away from my next appointment – where I will have another chance to say yay or nay to the sweep. Right now, I’m tempted to just let it ride and see if things won’t start on their own. I feel like she’ll come when she’s good and ready. But in your last few weeks of pregnancy, three days is an eternity and I change my mind at least three times a day about how much discomfort I’m in, so there’s really no telling where my head will be at by Tuesday.

 

 

Vagina lightning

AKA lightning crotch, cooter shooters or shiv snatch – thank you, online pregnancy message boards.

A few people use these terms to describe the (minorly unpleasant) second trimester round ligament pains, but those are a walk in the park compared to real lightning crotch.

Personally, I find it more akin to a screwdriver in your cervix. Because while it is shocking and stabby, like lightning or a knife, it is at the same time twisty and wrenching. And I feel it high up and deep inside my pelvis. If you’re walking, it makes you freeze in your tracks or double over. If you’re sitting, it makes you bolt upright, and in any case it is almost impossible not to yell out, swear or gasp in pain.

It’s super common (and nothing to worry about) but it’s a real son of a bitch. It was happening occasionally for the last couple of months, but towards the end of last week I went through a day or two where it was happening so frequently that every time I moved, I was afraid. It seems to have settled down a bit, but is still happening daily  (or more). Nobody knows exactly what causes this third trimester treat – it could be early cervical dilation, the baby triggering nerves in your pelvis, or the baby engaging (dropping) into your pelvis and (head)butting up against your cervix.

The pain is one thing, but the worst thing about it is that it’s pretty confidence killing. You’re thinking, “I can’t even handle these fleeting pains and I’m going to manage to get through a million hours of labour? Right.” And every time it happens, you feel like your husband (who will aggressively deny this) looks at you skeptically like, “oh great…she’s already freaking out and this isn’t even close to as bad as it’s gonna get.”

Somewhat comfortingly, everything I’m reading and hearing indicates that it really does hurt, but it is also really nothing like labour pains. As my friend (and fellow lightning crotch survivor) Kristyn assured me, “no, no, no, labour is a gradual process, not like knives in your vagina.”

So, there’s that.

 

A quick morning rant

It has come to my attention that the average person may not actually know what a pregnant woman looks like. Sure, they could pick one out of a line-up (the pissed-off scowl and basketball belly are among her many distinguishing features) but I guarantee you they will – one way or another – find the image “wrong”. She will be too big or too small. Carrying too high or too low. Visibly pregnant only when viewed in profile or, from behind, two blocks away (both scenarios wrong, wrong, wrong). I know this because at 32 weeks I am yet to look “right” and frankly, I’m running out of time to nail it. I went directly from not really looking pregnant for about 25 weeks to hearing (the never clever line) “are you sure it’s not twins?!”

While I personally feel huge, I can assure you I don’t need to hear it. I can also assure you that my preggo body is not – in any technical way – remarkable. After some initial early weight loss, my weight gain has been slow, steady and smack-dead-middle-of-the-road average. I was advised to gain 25 – 35 lbs and have thus far gained 22 lbs (or a full Twitchy, using the International Cat System of Measurement). With 7.5 weeks left, during which I am projected to gain about a pound a week, I’ll probably come in right around the middle of my “healthy weight gain” range. I am yet to resort to maternity pants (a huge bonus of the fact that I am carrying really high, so I can get away with wearing leggings or unbuttoned pants with belly bands low). I’m not retaining fluid (my ankles, feet, hands etc. aren’t swollen –rings and shoes fit just fine). I am not spectacularly gargantuan. I’m just fucking pregnant.

If I could suggest a rule of thumb, it would be this: a pregnant woman looks just like however the woman standing in front of you who says she is pregnant looks.

And, talk behind peoples’ backs if you must – I certainly do, it’s one of life’s joys – but there is probably no more need to comment on someone’s weight gain in pregnancy than there is at any other time. Think about it. Can you imagine if we said things like, “Whoa, you’ve really chunked out since the divorce eh?”, “You must’ve gotten a membership to the donut of the month club for your 4oth!”, or maybe, “Hey, congrats on the promotion, but it looks like that desk job hasn’t done your ass any favours!”

That is all. For now.

Topics coming to the blog soon: childbirth classes, vacationing pregnant (or, why sand sucks), two book reviews, the results of the Big Purge.

This nesting thing…

How early does it start? And, more pressingly, does it manifest as an eye-twitch and burning desire to throw away everything in your house?

See, I always thought it was more about starting to feel all cozy and maternal. Spending time stowing away baby clothes, prepping freezer meals and wanting to spend time at home, sipping tea and knitting booties…or something.

Whereas this crazy bitch wants to flag down a trucker and pay him to come in and cart away everything in the fucking house. Clothes? Way too many of them and they don’t fit anyways (I have lost ALL perspective here, anything that doesn’t currently fit me is utterly useless, always has been and will never have a purpose in my life again) Everything must go! Off to the clothing donation bin! My husband’s stuff? Like, why does he even need to keep his things in our house at all? Can’t it all just go away? Totally reasonable. The couch, the coffee table, our stupid (godforsaken wobbly framed) bed, old computers, desks, boxes, old packages, WHY IS THIS STUFF IN MY HOUSE??!!

And the worst part is, when you’re 7 months pregnant, you can’t really take any action. Short of actually flagging down a trucker, which…honestly, isn’t the worst idea I’ve ever had…I’m in no physical position to do much to satisfy the urge to purge. I can (and am) cleaning, donating and tossing the light stuff that I can carry (and my body will still be a disaster by day’s end) but the rest of it just has to wait until my husband can get it done (and get the help he needs to do it, since again, I am the definition of dead weight in this partnership).

Naturally, I did the only thing I know how to do. Which is make a ridiculously complex, colour-coded (pink and blue jobs) list of goals and task. At least my eye has stopped twitching long enough to pack for vacation. Can’t you tell how relaxed and carefree I am on my first day of holidays?

The big piss off.

You’ve probably heard that you pee a lot when you’re pregnant. Like me, you may have assumed that this happens as baby grows and puts pressure on your bladder. Perfectly logical. Logical, but so not the whole story. This happens, for sure, but you will also have to pee a ton almost as soon as you’re pregnant when the baby is literally the size of a poppy seed. And when you tell people how much you are peeing at this stage, they will give you the side-eye and say things like, “but the baby isn’t even taking up room yet!” or “already??!” or, the thing you will hear most often in pregnancy: “just you wait!”, and you will want to punch them in the face. When you should be using your valuable energy for falling on your knees and praising the gods every single time a first trimester urge hits and you get to enjoy a long, productive, satisfying piss.

Because in those early days, needing to pee a lot is a fact. In later days, it’s more of a maddening illusion. I’ll explain. In pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body rises until you have almost 50% more than normal (fun fact: if you gain 30 lbs in pregnancy, 4 lbs of it is extra blood). And in the first trimester, hormonal changes cause all this blood to flow more quickly through your kidneys, making them produce up to 25% more urine – which obviously fills your bladder more often. Apparently, this increased urine production peaks somewhere between 9 and 16 weeks and then settles down. So yeah, you legitimately have to pee a lot at first. And it’s a little annoying, especially if you’re not used to waking up at night to pee, but it’s really not so bad. Then you get a lovely little most-of-the-second-trimester break (seriously, the second trimester is magical in a number of ways).

And then somewhere around 25 weeks or so (or more specifically, I’m guessing, whenever your belly actually pops) you will begin to feel like you have to pee a lot again. But – here’s the kicker – you don’t actually have to. You will sit down, pee 3 drops and then stand up and feel like you have to pee again. And repeat. All fucking day long. You will start to stubbornly hold your pee in (because you are wise to your bladder’s tricks by now and will not be a slave to it) forever (30 minutes max), feeling like you are going to pee your pants every time your foot hits the ground when you walk, before finally giving in and peeing 6 drops. You will begin to look forward to the first pee upon waking because it is the only time all day that it will seem worthwhile actually flushing the toilet. And in fact, when you are home alone, you will flush only every 4th or 5th pee because all that flushing is crazy-making when the toilet water is still crystal clear. There will be eye-rolling when you tell your husband that you have to leave Sears NOW because you really need to pee, and no you can’t just walk ALL THE WAY DOWN THE MALL to the bathroom because walking is torture, and yes, sitting in the car and waiting until you get to the restaurant makes total sense even if it makes zero sense to him.

Suffice to say that there is needing to pee a lot and then there is needing to pee often and desperately, but not a lot. The former beats the latter in any pissing contest.